Pens are uncertain if Malkin can play opening night

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The Pittsburgh Penguins don’t know if Evgeni Malkin can suit up for their season-opener on Oct. 9, but they could know soon, according to GM Jim Rutherford.

“The next few days will be the turning point, as to whether he’ll be available for opening night,” Rutherford told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Dave Molinari.

Malkin, 28, hasn’t been able to participate in Penguins training camp because of an undisclosed injury. The star center still hasn’t been cleared to practice and might not be by the weekend, as new head coach Mike Johnston told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Jason Mackey.

Through all the changes in the Penguins organization, nagging injuries could still have a big impact on the team. Sidney Crosby’s first preseason came tonight for a variety of reasons, but playing it safe with his healing wrist has to be one of them. Malkin had his own struggles last season, as he was limited to 60 regular season games because of a foot injury and a lower-body issue. He hasn’t enjoyed a fully healthy season since 2009-09, though he did just fine in 2011-12 (109 points in 75 games on his way to his lone Hart Trophy win).

As much as people beat up on the Penguins’ old regime, former head coach Dan Bylsma managed significant injuries as the team remained a perennial contender. Johnston might face a tough start in Pittsburgh if key figures like Malkin aren’t 100 percent or are unavailable.